Session #9: Music & Beer

Our ninth Session, hosted by Tomme Arthur at the Lost Abbey Brewer’s Log, involves the pairing of beer with music, another subject near and dear to my heart. My original aspiration was a career in music, preferably writing, and once upon a time I played the saxophone and clarinet. What’s interesting about that is how common it is. There are so many brewers and beer people who are musicians that it’s harder to not find a brewing musician than it is to find one.

It’s almost five in the morning on Friday, and I have to get on a plane in a few hours for a trip to Germany. Couple that with the lost days in Pennsylvania to attend my great aunt’s funeral earlier this week and I’ve gotten myself more behind than usual. So instead of something new, I’m instead going to quote myself from a piece I did on beer and music for Beer Advocate magazine’s May issue.

Music has a way of getting under the skin and directly into our soul. It touches us in ways that seem almost magical. Hearing an old tune can transport us back in time and allow us to relive memories. A new song can infect us with a desire to dance, commune with friends or shout to the heavens. As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche quipped, “Without music life would be a mistake.”

Only beer can make this experience more intense. Alcohol is called a social lubricant for good reason. When enhanced by the inhibition-releasing power of beer, music comes alive and worms its way into our very being. As Nietzsche later wrote, “For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.” So it is that brewers provide an invaluable service to humanity’s progress and spiritual evolution. They create the catalyst that allows great music to flourish and they give all of us a simple way to enhance life’s pleasures. For this reason, music and beer go together like no others and create a combination that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. A good beer makes the music sound better and a good song cries out for a brew.

To the outsider, both beer and music seem to flow chaotically, yet both are very ordered and mathematical. The best of brewing is both art and science, and brewers who make a consistent beer are fastidiously organized. There is a precision integral to the process from how long the boil lasts to at what exact moment to add the hops and in what amount. So, too, music can be endlessly ordered into time signatures and tempos. For each, measures are very important. Both musicians and brewers express themselves as artists by putting a lot of themselves into their craft, be it a new stout or a new song. But beyond that, because of the nearly infinite combination of 12 notes and four basic ingredients, both pursuits are a kind of ordered chaos. It’s no surprise then, given these fundamental similarities, that many brewers are also musicians and many breweries have their own band. The same type of person is drawn naturally to both pursuits.

So no specific tasting this session for me, but really every tasting involves music as a backdrop so perhaps it’s not necessary. As no doubt will be shown time and time again in the posts that will appear for this session, beer and music are inextricably linked. My iPod is loaded with beer drinking songs and my brain is loaded with beer memories that are triggered by music. All I need is a beer to complete the cycle. But of course that will only make me thirsty for more music.



  1. says

    1985… The Fleece and Firkin in Bristol…a brewpub in an old converted woolshed. Four kids playing the greatest Dr Feelgood style rock n’blues…… wooden picnic tables and stone floor…. pulled pork rolls…….superb cask best bitter…… hot young woman pressing her leg against mine….. and I still remember the music.

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